Vossoughi Wins Ver Steeg Award

Vossoughi Wins Ver Steeg Award

Shirin VossoughiShirin Vossoughi, assistant professor of learning sciences, is a 2020 winner of the Ver Steeg Award. Northwestern University’s Shirin Vossoughi, assistant professor of learning sciences, has received The Graduate School’s 2019–20 Ver Steeg award for her outstanding work supporting and mentoring graduate students.

Vossoughi, SESP’s first winner since Matt Easterday received the award in 2015, is best known for her work studying culture, equity, social relationships, and learning in a range of educational environments.

In 2019, she won the Jan Hawkins Award for Early Career Contributions to Humanistic Research and Scholarship in Learning Technologies from the American Education Research Association.

Nominators praised Vossoughi’s ability to make students feel safe and understood in her classroom, her thoughtful guidance, and her keen ability to gently check in when students need it most.

She is especially interested in the ethics of design and research with minoritized communities, and the relationships between learning and social change.

“She embodies empathy in her interactions and always shows me a deep intellectual and personal respect,” one nominator wrote. “Her research is a model for me and other graduate students interested in a humanistic approach to research of and with community.”

Vossoughi has spearheaded several collaborative and intergenerational efforts both inside and outside the classroom. She most recently co-designed a hybrid course that brings together students from Northwestern with those from Evanston Township High School to investigate issues of educational justice and inter-generational learning.

In her classroom, Vossoughi builds intellectual community by supporting students to wrestle with a range of perspectives and approaches to educational change. Students call her both a “personal and professional role model” and many described how she makes them feel safe to share in her class in ways they can’t in other spaces.

Her graduate course is renowned in the School for being one of the “most challenging and transformative courses available.” 

“I often say that I would've dropped out if it wasn't for her because she never made me feel inadequate in a place that is individualistic and competitive,” another student wrote. “As a first-generation Black woman, there are many things about grad school that are invisible to me. Shirin knows this and provides intimate support that is rarely found. She has gone out of her way to make sure that I know that I am enough—an invaluable feeling we all deserve as grad students."

Vossoughi has taught in schools, after-school and summer programs, and served as the director of a summer camp for youth in the Iranian diaspora. As the daughter of Iranian immigrants, she is personally invested in the design and study of educational settings for youth from migrant, immigrant and diasporic backgrounds. 

Prior to joining the learning sciences faculty at Northwestern University in 2014, Shirin was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and the Exploratorium, where she led an ethnographic study of after-school programs that blend scientific inquiry, literacy and the arts. Her work towards building just learning environments is also grounded in her family, her partner Walter Kitundu and their four-year old daughter, Azadeh. 



By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 3/20/20